King blocks Thai princess' prime minister bid; pressure mounts to dissolve party

Nastya Rybka

Nastya Rybka

The Thailand princess' party faces pressure to dissolve even though it has obeyed the king's command to withdraw her nomination as prime ministerial candidate.

Princess Ubolratana Mahidol's declaration to run for prime minister in the populist party, Thai Raksa Chart, for the March elections, at age 67, could have shaken up a military junta that has ruled the country since a 2014 coup. However the move angered the princess's elder brother King Vajiralongkorn.

The political hopes of the princess were dashed nearly immediately when her younger brother, the king, issued a terse statement saying his sister's candidacy was "highly inappropriate" and went against tradition and national culture.

The Thai royal family, a revered institution shielded from criticism by a tough defamation law, has traditionally been seen as above the political fray, although royals have intervened in moments of political crisis.

Still, Paiboon Nititawan, the pro-military People Reform Party leader, has called on the Election Commission to meet Monday to consider dissolving the Thai Raksa Party for nominating the princess despite withdrawing her nomination.

The vote, set for March 24, will be Thailand's first democratic elections since ex-Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is also Mr Thaksin's younger sister, was ousted five years ago.

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"Involvement of a high ranking member of the royal family in politics, in whatever way, is an act that conflicts with the country's traditions, customs, and culture, and therefore is considered extremely inappropriate".

Princess Ubolratana had claimed she was exercising her rights as a commoner to stand for election but she undermined her own candidacy by listing the royal "Grand Palace" as her residence on official registration papers.

In a world of strict decorum that defines Thai royal life, she stands out for her accessibility - she is an actress and singer, and replies to queries from the more than 97,000 followers of her Instagram account.

The current prime minister and former army chief led a 2014 coup that ousted a civilian government to end a prolonged period of sometimes deadly unrest.

Thai Raksa Chart, said it "complies with the royal command", and canceled a campaign event Saturday.

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